1987, love in time of war. A bus driver George Lennox meets Carla, a Nicaraguan exile living a precarious, profoundly sad life in Glasgow. Her back is scarred, her boyfriend missing, her ... See full summary »
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This song is from Mesopotamia, uh... which means the land between the two rivers: the Tigris and the Eufrates, where the homo sapiens learned to write, to count and mark the stars, which anthropologists called the cradle of civilizations. In my dreams it might be once again.
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I almost don't want to be too honest about Ken Loach's latest. He is a national treasure after all. But then I remember what my job here is. 'Route Irish' is different from any other Loach film I've seen. Half the story is set in Iraq (Jordan), and uses techniques more typical of a Blockbuster.
Route Irish was, during the Iraq war, believed to be quite literally the most dangerous road in the world, where suicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and other nasties were commonplace. Disbelieving that his best friend and army buddy, Frankie (comedian John Bishop) was KIA, Liverpudlian Fergus (Mark Womack) vows to get to the truth. Frankie, says Fergus, 'was born lucky'. If you can forgive this soupçon of implausibility from which the story emanates, you can enjoy (parts of) the film.
Twenty-four hour news makes us immune to the carnage of war. We tuck into our cornflakes while yawning at Apocalypse Now-style footage. Here, Ken Loach personalises war. He's always used film as a political medium to mirror his Left-leaning views. But there's a distinctly pluralistic advocacy on display in this film. Iraqis are at once sympathised with and blamed. The role of a soldier is both defended and upbraided. And the use of private contractors in the 'war on terror' is equally shielded and condemned.
The only bits that are worthy of Loach are the scenes of tension, for instance when Fergus explains to Rachel (Frankie's partner) that of course Frankie played around: 'Every day out there (Iraq) could be the last how can you go from that to shopping at Tesco?'.
For such a kindly codger, Loach has quite a tolerance for profanity. The 'f' word doesn't bother me, but it's overdoing it a bit when you put the likes of Tarantino to shame. As the peerless critic Roger Ebert said of another film, 'profanity is used as punctuation'.
Strangely, a full-on waterboarding torture scene has no more terror than an exploding party popper. Clearly not destined to bother the Russian roulette scene from 'The Deer Hunter'. It's in tune with the general tone of the film: big ambitions, too little follow-through.
Various technical points distracted me from an otherwise half-decent melodrama. Fergus casually lets slip that he's ex-SAS. That would imply he's a man of considerable resourcefulness. So why can't he himself extract video clips from Frankie's primitive mobile phone to establish how he died? And why does he need to conduct online conference calls to amateurs for information? What's stopping him from Andy McNabbing his own way into Iraq?
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